Fleets worst hit by plunging new car registrations - but EVs set new record
05 October 2021
Author: Sean Keywood
UK new car registrations were down by 34.4% year-on-year in September, as supply problems continued to hit the industry.
The total of 215,312 cars registered last month was the lowest seen in September since 1998, and was also down by 44.7% on the pre-pandemic ten-year average.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which has published the figures, said the ongoing shortage of semiconductors, a critical component in modern car making, was continuing to have a major impact on vehicle availability.
The fleet sector was particularly affected, with registrations down by 43.1% year-on-year, and 'business' registrations to firms with fewer than 25 vehicles down by 43.3%, while private registrations were down by 25.3%
There was however some better news for the EV market, with 32,721 overall registrations making it the best ever month for pure-electric car sales.
A 49.4% increase year-on-year, the figure also gave EVs a 15.2% share of the market overall.
EV sales were boosted by the Tesla Model 3, the UK's bestselling car in September with 6,879 registrations - the company's delivery schedules commonly mean large peaks in registrations during certain months of the year.
September also saw plug-in hybrid registrations increase by 11.5%, for a 6.4% market share, while conventional hybrids were down by 5.1% for an 11.6% share.
As for other fuel types, diesel was down by a whopping 77.3%, for just a 5% market share, while mild hybrid diesels were down by 15.1% for a 5.3% share.
Petrols also saw a steep decline, by 46.6%, though this was still good enough for a 43.8% market share, while mild hybrid petrols were down by 10.1% for a 12.7% market share.
All electrified powertrains recorded an increase in their market share compared with September 2020.
For the year-to-date, overall new car market registrations are now up only 5.9% compared with 2020, and down by 29.4% on the pre-pandemic average.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "This is a desperately disappointing September and further evidence of the ongoing impact of the Covid pandemic on the sector.
"Despite strong demand for new vehicles over the summer, three successive months have been hit by stalled supply due to reduced semiconductor availability, especially from Asia.
"Nevertheless, manufacturers are taking every measure possible to maintain deliveries and customers can expect attractive offers on a range of new vehicles."
Acknowledging the increase in EV sales, Hawes added: "Despite these challenges, the rocketing uptake of plug-in vehicles, especially battery electric cars, demonstrates the increasing demand for these new technologies.
"However, to meet our collective decarbonisation ambitions, we need to ensure all drivers can make the switch - not just those with private driveways - requiring a massive investment in public recharging infrastructure.
"Charge point roll-out must keep pace with the acceleration in plug-in vehicle registrations."
Reacting to the figures, Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions managing director Jon Lawes suggested issues around fuel supply were incentivising EV take-up.
He said: "Whilst current supply chain issues are leading to longer lead times across the board, clear shifts in driver priorities to cleaner, greener vehicles have continued with the introduction of new 71 plates.
"A new form of anxiety affecting drivers of ICE vehicles has emerged during the fuel crisis. With the price at the pumps also heading in the wrong direction despite fuel shortages beginning to ease, we've seen EV enquiries increase markedly by 33% over the past month and our corporate order bank is currently at 85% ULEV.
"These recent events will only heighten a new wave of enthusiasm for EVs and provide further impetus for many drivers to make the switch."
Commenting along similar lines, Lex Autolease electrification propositions lead Meryem Brassington said: "The recent fuel shortage will only have further heightened awareness of the importance of transitioning to an electric future.
"As EVs continue to rise in popularity, industry must work collaboratively to ensure there isn't a tipping point of demand outstripping supply."